CDC advises on COVID-19 preparedness for mass gatherings and events

March 4, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing interim guidance for COVID-19 intended for organizers and staff responsible for planning mass gatherings or large community events in the United States.

A mass gathering is a planned or spontaneous event with a large number of people in attendance that could strain the planning and response resources of the community hosting the event, such as concerts, festivals, conferences, worship services and sporting events. As the COVID-19 outbreak evolves, the CDC strongly encourages event organizers and staff to prepare for the possibility of outbreaks in their communities. Creating an emergency plan for mass gatherings and large community events can help protect event participants and local communities.

The CDC has developed recommended actions for preventing the spread of COVID-19 at mass gatherings and large community events. The Before, During and After sections of this guidance offer suggested strategies to help plan and implement these recommendations.

Before a COVID-19 outbreak occurs – Plan:

A COVID-19 outbreak could last for a long time. Depending on the severity of the outbreak, public health officials may recommend community actions designed to limit exposure to COVID-19. Officials may ask people to modify, postpone or cancel large events for the safety and well-being of event staff, participants and the community. The details of an emergency operations plan should be based on the size and duration of events, demographics of the participants, complexity of event operations and type of on-site services and activities the event may offer.

Recommendations include:

·        Review the existing emergency operations plans for venues

·         Establish relationships with key community partners and stakeholders 

·         Address key prevention strategies in emergency operations plan

·         Provide COVID-19 prevention supplies at events

·         Plan for staff absences 

·         Plan ways to limit in-person contact for staff supporting events 

·         Develop flexible refund policies for participants 

·         Communicate about COVID-19

During a COVID-19 Outbreak – Act:

During an outbreak, public health officials may provide event organizers with guidance intended to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Meet regularly with the emergency operations coordinator or planning team at the venue. They are positioned to accurately assess, manage, and communicate possible risks. Early action to slow the spread of COVID-19 will help keep event staff, participants and the community healthy.

Recommendations include:

·         Stay informed about the local COVID-19 situation

·         Communicate frequently with those in communication chain

·         Distribute health messages about COVID-19 to event staff and participants

·         Provide COVID-19 prevention supplies to event staff and participants

·         Consider alternatives for event staff and participants who are at high risk for complications from COVID-19

·         Implement flexible staff attendance and sick-leave policies (if possible)

·         Separate those who become sick at the event from those who are well

·         Put into action strategies for postponing or canceling events

·         Update everyone in communication chain about when events will occur if postponed or canceled

After a COVID-19 outbreak has ended – Follow Up:

Remember, a COVID-19 outbreak could last for a long time. When public health officials determine that the outbreak has ended in a local community, people should work with them to identify criteria for scaling back COVID-19 prevention actions at events. Base the criteria on slowing of the outbreak in a local area. If events were cancelled, people should work with venues to reschedule events.

·         Evaluate effectiveness of emergency operations and communication plans

·         Meet with the emergency operations coordinator or planning team for venues to discuss and note lessons learned

·         Gather feedback from event staff, participants (if possible), community partners, and stakeholders to improve plans

·         Maintain and expand planning team

·         Participate in community-wide emergency preparedness activities

CDC has the statement.

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.